Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Conference: Gottesdienst - St. Louis

A one-day conference: Marriages and Weddings

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

St. Paul Lutheran Church (Hamel)
6969 W. Frontage Rd.
Worden, IL  62097

Featuring from among our editors

Rev. Fr. Larry Beane, MDiv
Rev. Fr. David H. Petersen, MDiv, STM
Rev. Fr. Heath R. Curtis, MA, MDiv
Rev. Fr. Jason Braaten, MDiv
Rev. Fr. Burnell F. Eckardt Jr., MDiv, STM, PhD
Rev. Fr. Mark Braden, MDiv, STM


8:30 - 9:00 am - Registration / Coffee & Donuts
Holy Absolution available

9:00 am - Matins
9:40 am - Welcome
9:45-10:30 am - "The Two Shall Become One": A Theology of Marriage
   Fr. Larry Beane, Online and Departmental Editor
10:45 am - Holy Mass

12:00 pm - Lunch

1:00 - 1:45 pm - "What God Hath Joined Together": A Theology of Weddings
   Fr. David Petersen, Departmental Editor
1:45 pm - Break
2:00 pm - Sectionals
2:45 pm - Sectionals
3:30 pm - Panel Discussion - The Gottesdienst editors
4:15 pm - Vespers
5:00 pm - Gem├╝tlichkeit

Sectional Topics

1) Pre-Marital 'Counseling'
2) Dealing With Divorce and Remarriage
3) Planning the Wedding
4) Having Children and Raising Them

Lodging - On your own.  Recommended:

The Innkeeper Motel,
401 E. State St., Hamel, IL  62046
(618) 633-2111  www.inkeeperinn.com


$25 (Payable to Gottesdienst)

You may email the following info to b.f.eckardt@gmail.com with "Gottesdienst" in the subject line, and you may pay the registration fee in advance, or when you arrive.

Title & Name
City, State, Zip

Your sectional preferences (please select two):
   Pre-Marital 'Counseling'
   Divorce & Remarriage
   Planning the Wedding
   Having Children and Raising Them

Babysitting requested?

Saturday, May 9, 2015


Viability study needed?
By Larry Beane

We live in a culture that measures success in terms of numbers.  And so, very often the first question pastors hear when people find out that we are clergy is: "How big is your church?"  Even pastors are often heard asking each other a question that is revealing in its linguistic construction: "How many do you worship on Sunday?"  That's because the sinful flesh revels in the theology of glory.  Bigger is better.  Richer is better.  And when it comes to local parishes, the more "ministries" a church has going (meaning various activities and programs) the more it is perceived as being successful.

But of course, the kingdom of God operates differently than the corrupted world.

The distinction between the Theology of Glory and the Theology of the Cross is part of our Lutheran DNA.  Of all people, we ought to resist this sin of treating God's Word like the stock market and treating human beings like means to one's own enrichment.  Biblical Christianity is antithetical to the Prosperity Gospel and the scandalous behavior those who abuse the name of our Lord by its practice.

I recently received Newsletter #238 from the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELC), which relates the ongoing work in finding small pockets of Lutheran Christians in the world's largest country in order to travel to them, teach them the Bible, and to administer sacraments at Divine Services.  The SELC is both the largest Lutheran church body in the world, and one of the smallest.  It is large in geography and small in numbers.  Her parishes are for the most part very small, are served by worker-priests, and do not have the luxury of activities and programs.  It is a great blessing for Russian Lutherans to attend Bible classes and Divine Services.

As a result of their small numbers in terms of members and clergy, combined with the vast numbers of kilometers to cover in tedious and arduous travel (often in brutal conditions) in bringing Bible classes and Divine Services to tiny groups of people, the SELC has unique challenges.

Here is the newsletter article:

Peace to you, dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
On April, 22, pastor Andrei Lipnitsky has visited the village Oravka in Chany district of Novosibirsk region. This village was founded by colonists from Estonia in 1894.  It had even a church building, but at Soviet time it was confiscated and reconstructed to use as a school.  Thus religious life was extinguished.
About 40 people came to meet the Lutheran pastor.  They asked a lot of questions.  At the end of the talk Pastor Lipnitsky gave Small Catechisms to everybody.

To search and to visit such villages where there are people, whose ancestors confessed the Lutheran faith -- this is continuing ministry of our Church. We do it all the time.

The very first time, pastor Vsevolod Lytkin and deacon Daniel Burlakov visited such a village nearly 20 years ago. You may remember this story from our very old newsletters.

That time, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Roman-Catholic priests started to travel over Siberia to look for villages where Roman-Catholics survived.  And accidentally they found a village where people said they are Lutherans.  They spoke Russian with a strong western accent. Their ancestors came to Siberia from Poland.

Catholic priests phoned us and invited to come to this village. It was a long travel.  First, from Novosibirsk to Irkutsk, then for 8 hours by different vehicles through the taiga.  Finally we arrived to our destination, and spent a week there, communicating with the habitants.

The first settlers came to that place in the late 19th century, then many families moved from Poland (that time it was part of the Russian Empire) into deep Siberia.

Their life was very hard; they rooted out trees and arranged fields. Then they lived there and grown.  Pastor from Irkutsk visited the village once a year. He baptized, confirmed, gave the Holy Communion, conducted weddings. Last time a Pastor was there in 1935.

And then Rev. Vsevolod Lytkin became the first pastor who visited this village for over 60 years.  Many old people talked him about the faith of their ancestors, and what terrible persecutions they gone through because of their faith.  Half of the villagers died in the concentration camps during 30s and 40s (at the time of Joseph Stalin’s regime).  People were arrested if a Bible or prayer book has found in their homes.

But older people still remember what parents taught them. For example, a woman who was asked by Pastor Lytkin if she knew what the Holy Communion is, said that she never in her life took the Communion, but she remembers what her mother taught. And then she quoted by heart about Holy Communion from the Luther’s small Catechism.

Then she said: now my eyes have seen a Lutheran pastor, now I can die. And it sounded as in Luke 2: 29-30, it was very touchable. 

That was so long ago, Bishop Vsevolod Lytkin said. But since then we have found many other villages where people have kept the faith, or even the memory of what their ancestors were Lutherans.  The Volga Germans, Poles, Finns, Latvians, Estonians...  We owe to these people, because they have brought Lutheranism to Siberia.  For many years we are searching for such villages and we try to do something to help their habitants.  To comfort the elderly.  And talk about Lord Jesus Christ and His Church to the younger.

Sadly, we do not have many resources to do this work. After all, we are a very small Church, and we are poor.  And distances in Siberia are huge.  But we try, because it is our responsibility before God.” 
Please pray for a safe travels of the pastors in Siberia, and that they find more villages, whose inhabitants have been and will be Lutherans.

These tiny pockets of Christians are not ignored by the bishop and the priests of our sister church body in favor of "ministries" and programs and a great chase for numbers.  They are cherished as souls whom the pastors have been called to serve with the Word and the Sacraments - even if it is costly in terms of financial resources and time to reach them.  If there is one thing our Russian brethren understand by experience, it is the Theology of the Cross.

Our Lord said, "Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them" (Matt 18:20).  He did not say anything about throwing such small numbers of people out of the church body, nor pressuring them to become involved in revitalization programs, or compelling them into mergers or closures.  The Lord commissioned His pastors to "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matt 28:19-20).  He sent them out to teach and to administer sacraments, for that is how disciples are made.  He didn't say anything about mergers, closures, or revitalization.  There was no mention of viability studies.  He says nothing about the need for a certain minimum number of parishioners or programs.

By contrast, a circuit of pastors in my district has an interesting take on small congregations and how they ought to be treated - as articulated in their proposed memorial:


WHEREAS, the 65th Synodical Convention adopted Resolution 7-04 that addresses the establishment of general principles for the evaluation of the viability of a district, and 

WHEREAS, congregations have input into the final process of the district viability evaluation, and 

WHEREAS, a number of congregations are faithfully administering the Word and Sacraments of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, while also experiencing other extreme ministry crises that are impeding the level of positive and effective outreach ministry and community involvement as related to the “Great Commission” (Matthew 28:19-20), and 

WHEREAS, the overall community outreach programs or other ministry services of a number of congregations are non-existent, and 

WHEREAS, the overall ministry of a number of congregations is basically a Sunday morning Bible study and worship, and 

WHEREAS, the records of baptism and confirmations of a number of congregations have experienced an extreme dramatic decrease, hitting rock bottom, and 

WHEREAS, the doors of a number of congregations remain open only because of a few number of remaining dedicated families having deep roots in the historical foundation of the church, and 

WHEREAS, the Task Force indicated in the 1969 Resolution 4-03 adopted “General Principles for the Formation of the Realignment of Districts,” offering adequate parish services was one very important principle; therefore, be it 

RESOLVED, THAT the Southern District establish a Parish Ministry Viability Evaluation Task Force; and, be it further 

RESOLVED, THAT the District President and the Board of Directors, establish and empower the Task Force consisting of the VP Regional Representative, the Circuit Visitor, the Mission Executive and one member of the Mission Committee, the Pastor and President of the congregation being evaluated, meet to develop the general principles of evaluating the viability of the parish as identified by the Circuit Visitor and District President; and, be it further 

RESOLVED, THAT the Task Force forward its recommendation to the President for his disclosure to the Board of directors, and the respective congregation. Such a recommendation could include a possible merger, entering into an official revitalization process, and redesign of the parish ministry to better meet the needs of the community, or final dissolution of the ministry; and, be it finally 

RESOLVED, THAT the President of the District issue an official letter of recommendation to the evaluated congregation, indicating a triennium time frame to reach an acceptable improved level of viability. Included in the letter of recommendation are suggested available resources and suggestions for the ministry. The President’s final letter of recommendation may include a recommended merger, dissolution of the congregation or a removal from the LCMS Roster. 

Submitted by: Circuit Forum 1 

By the way, this same circuit has invested the time and energy to memorialize the synod to ban the word "Easter" in all its publications (Memorial 1-05).  

I guess this is one of the differences between first- and third-world Christianity.  We American Lutherans have not been decimated by a Lenin or a Stalin.  We have not lived through a time when Bible Studies and Divine Services were yearned-for luxuries, and the thought of having a pastor come to give the Lord's Supper was the answer to six decades of fervent prayer.

However, we are moving toward a time of hostility toward - if not outright persecution of - orthodox Christianity in this country.  We may be approaching the days when "Sunday morning Bible study and worship" are actually appreciated by all circuits within our districts as the very center of parochial and ecclesiastical life, something important, urgent, and life-giving, instead of the mark of ecclesiastical failure to be bureaucratically remedied.  

Maybe viability (from Latin: vita meaning "life") in the Lord's kingdom is not really about numbers at all.  Maybe big, comfortable, numbers-driven American Christianity is the one with the viability issues.  

Kyrie eleison!

Now, that's more like it!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Book You Need—A Review of "LadyLike: Living Biblically," by Rebekah Curtis and Rose Adle

As a pastor of your standard, midwest, rural congregation of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, I am always looking for resources that are doctrinally sound, well written, and easily accessible for the laity. Resources that your standard, midwest, rural layman of The LutheranChurch—Missouri Synod can pick up and mine the riches of biblical and Lutheran truth and apply to their lives on their own. This is all the more the case, when those resources cover topics that are not always covered so easily in sermons and Bible classes. I suspect that I am not alone.

But more than simply a resource that I can hand out to the people I serve, I also look for resources that help me learn, not what to say, but rather how to say it, and say it better. I want resources to help me communicate biblical truths in an understandable way with grace and empathy. I know what is right. I know what needs to be said, but I don’t always know how to communicate that in a way that engages the hearer to listen and learn, instead of being offensive and off-putting. I suspect here, too, that I am not alone. We LCMS types are good at being right, at knowing what is doctrinally and biblically correct, but we don’t always have the words to communicate it, and thus our voice and the truth carried by it can sometimes fall on deaf ears. 

Rose Adle & Rebekah Curtis
LadyLike: Living Biblically, by sisters Rebekah Curtis and Rose Adle, is one of those rare resources that does both. The book is a series of essays, which reads more like short blog posts, divided into four topical sections: World Viewing, Vocation Station, Some Theology Stuff, and Piety. The essays engage the problems of feminism and how that ideology has infected even people who reject it. They look at vocation—what it is and what it isn’t. They explain difficult Bible passages and biblical terms like submission and order of creation as they were meant to be and as God instituted them. They write about the pains and joys of marriage and children, barrenness and miscarriage as God wills it. They even discuss stewardship, prudence, propriety, modesty, and humility as it relates to those who are called to be women—wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters. They are often funny, sometimes cutting and even sad, but they are always engaging and filled with truth, truth we so desperately need to hear and speak. 

So, if you’re like me, looking for stand-alone resources you can put into the hands of your members, or you’re just looking for a way to speak the truth in love, LadyLike offers you both.

To preorder your copy of LadyLike: Living Biblically, click this link: https://www.cph.org/p-28440-ladylike-living-biblically.aspx. You won’t regret it. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Caerimonia In Memoriam

In remembrance

By Larry Beane

The use of ceremonies in the church has become controversial among us 21st century American Lutherans.  But it always amazes me how ceremony and ritual are much more easily accepted in other areas of life.

By way of example, as the local fire chaplain, I attended our state's annual memorial for fallen firefighters.  It is held at the site of a beautiful memorial area that is being improved year by year.  This year, a permanent stage was built.  Last year, a large glass plate with a decorative waterfall was added.  There is an eternal flame, beautiful statues and sculptures, places for flags and banners, memorial bricks, a brass bell, and carved stone monuments bearing names of those who laid down their lives for others.

It is dignified.  Nothing is done on the cheap.  The artwork reflects a long tradition within the firefighting culture that spans generations.  The annual ceremony is also formal, ritualistic, and traditional.

Most of the time, firefighters tend to be informal and practical in matters of attire and conduct.  They don't wear fancy uniforms or march in formation on a day to day basis.  They ply a holy vocation that involves using the latest technology and design for clothing and equipment.  It's all about what works best in the field in order to save lives.

But on the day of the memorial ceremony, firefighters marched solemnly in rows and columns. Their uniforms were formal, bedecked with brass badges and ribbons and epaulets.  Some sported antiquated firefighting uniforms from times past. There was also a parade of firetrucks, led by a Clydesdale-drawn steam unit from the 19th century.  There was a color guard.  Banners were posted.  The national anthem was sung, and it was not jazzed up.  Firefighters carried chrome-plated ceremonial picks and axes.  Bagpipers and Celtic-style drummers, clad in tartans and bearskin hats played traditional martial music, led by a major toting a large mace.  There were salutes, a rifle volley, and taps.  There was a ritual ringing of a bell five times, which was repeated three times.

The ceremony lasted two hours in the blazing Louisiana sun.  Seven men who fell in the line of duty were honored.  Their families were brought forward and treated with compassion, respect, and love by the assembly that gathered on this solemn occasion.  The ceremony - with all its attendant dignity and formality and impractical outmoded symbolism - brought comfort to the families of those who died in order that others might live.  It was a powerful statement that everything is not about us.

What was not there was also illustrative.

There were no skits or clowns or dancing girls.  Nor did anyone accuse the fire service of condemning anyone not in the fire service, or whose uniforms or trucks did not contain a certain level of finery or Latin mottoes, nor those who don't march the same way.  Nobody was offended.  Since this was not about us, those of us in attendance just didn't see the ritual as some kind of condemnation.  Not at all.

There was also no mockery.  Nobody made snarky comments about the marching and saluting as being pompous or ostentatious.  Nobody complained about the cost.  As far as I know, there were no facebook posts mocking the old-fashioned bells, the old-fashioned ornamentation, the impractical horse-drawn apparatus, or the loud rifle volleys. Nobody accused the formally-uniformed firefighters of being "firehouse prancers" or of putting on airs.

Why not?

I think people understood that this was a special occasion.  It was not ordinary.  This was an occasion of honor.  This was an occasion unlike the daily grind of life in our workaday world. We were doing this in memory of the fallen men who sacrificed their lives for others.  It is simply meet, right, and salutary to comport ourselves with dignity at such times.  And there is a culture, a tradition within the fire service in which things like ringing a bell five times and repeating this three times has meaning.  There is a reason for the use of the colors, the ribbons, the badges, etc.  Nobody made fun of the people who carried chrome-plated firefighting tools or the guys wearing the bearskin hats for hours in the heat.

There is a similar role for ceremony and tradition within other vocations and traditions, such as the military, the police, and other occupations that deal with life and death.  Even in organizations that don't involve life and death urgency, such as genealogical and historical societies, clubs, fraternal organizations, and even sports teams, there is a healthy respect for traditional ritual.  There is a similar (though decreasing) respect for tradition and formality in situations in life such as weddings, graduations, and funerals.

Sad to say, a lot of people within the Church - even within the Lutheran tradition - take the opposite tack.  They misinterpret depictions of pastors serving at altars as somehow about them.  To see a Gottesdienst cover depicting a pastor at the holy altar that includes a cruet and lavabo should not make me angry or defensive or snarky because my congregation's altar has no lavabo, nor do I, as a pastor, make use of the cruet.  To me, this would be as ridiculous as thinking that the firefighters who had gold braided shoulder cords as part of their dress uniforms were being insulting of me because my uniform lacks that particular element.  When it comes to the church's ceremonial, some make dismissive comments about "medieval finery" or "fancy vestments" or call into question why we use candles in the age of electricity or bells now that we have iPhones. They might protest that chalice veils and Gospel book covers are unnecessary.  Some might argue that the money used on such items could be better spent.

We live in an age of historical ignorance and myopia.  People don't know what the meanings of these ecclesiastical symbols are, nor how they connect us to the past in a great organic chain of tradition.  But what's worse than not knowing is that, often, they just don't care.  They want drinks and cup-holders.  They want snacks.  They want flip-flops.  They want pop music and a show.  This is the sad direction of modern American Christianity.  And even many of our brethren who are liturgical are offended by ceremonies that deviate in this way or that from their preferences and customs and expectations.

All of this goes to show that Gottesdienst's motto, "Leiturgia Divina adiaphora non est" is true.  For if ceremony is all indifferent, why do the advocates of rock and roll and dancing girls get all in a snit when they see clerical collars, traditional vestments, and ancient ceremony?  And why do those in the Goldilocks Middle equally decry praise bands and Sanctus bells, as though their brand of extreme moderation is a golden mean to be rigidly followed (the sign of the cross, good; genuflecting, bad.  Candles, good; incense, bad)?

Of course, what is lost here is the idea that this isn't about you, it's about Jesus.

Since Christ came into our world to forgive our sins and give us life by means of the Gottesdienst, the Divine Service of Word and Sacrament, we interact with Him and with the other people who gather in His name.  Such a coordinated communication requires order.  And since 80% of human communication is nonverbal, it necessarily involves ritual.  And since the Divine Service is a special occasion (in which Christ physically and truly comes to us in His Word and in His body and blood for forgiveness, life, and salvation by means of a miracle), and is not part of our workaday world, and since the altar is holy, the holiest of the holy, in fact (the word "sanctuary" means "holy," and the world "altar" means "raised up"), how can it be any other way than that we would conduct ourselves with dignity at the altar, engaging in ritual actions and making use of elements from within the grand tradition of Christianity, preferably items of quality and beauty, of durability and respect?

What would you think of a man who had the means to buy his fiancee a gold wedding ring, but opted instead to give her a cheap piece of costume jewelry?  This is very different from the man who can only afford something very humble.  Either way, one would expect a person motivated by love to demonstrate that love with more than words - which is what ceremony and ritual do.

As the pastor of a church that is far from wealthy, but also speaking as an American (and thus counted among the wealthiest people in the world who enjoy nearly universal luxuries like air conditioning, indoor plumbing, automobiles, televisions, and cell phones), most American congregations could afford things like Eucharistic vestments and a full range of communion vessels should these things enjoy a level of priority.  I'm grateful to donors whose generosity made it possible for us to have liturgical items that confess the dignity of our King's presence with us, though none of these things are necessary for a reverent celebration of the Lord's Supper.  And even when finances inhibit us from having certain things, it doesn't mean that reverence has to take a back seat.

After all, every Sunday Mass is a special occasion.  It is not ordinary.  It is an occasion of honor, an occasion unlike the daily grind of life in our workaday world. We do this in memory of the unfallen yet crucified Man, who sacrificed His perfect life for others, for us poor, miserable, and fallen sinners.  It is simply meet, right, and salutary to comport ourselves with dignity at such times.  And there is a culture, a Great Tradition that spans centuries within the Holy Church, in which things like ringing bells and making the sign of the cross have meaning.  There is a reason for the use of the colors, the banners, the vestments, etc.  Christian ceremonies chiefly teach people about Christ (Ap 24:3), calling to mind, confessing, and conveying that which He has done for us by His sacrifice on the cross.

And we receive this evangelical treasure of Word and Sacrament at His gracious invitation: "This do in remembrance of Me."

In remembrance

Monday, March 23, 2015

Quid Est Veritas?

Pilate asks: "What is truth?"

By Larry Beane

I just read a statement by a professor on the LCMS clergy roster who favors the 'ordination' of women. He made a curious reference to passages of Scripture perhaps being "outdated."
Part of his argument includes the fact that the Book of Concord (to which Lutherans have agreed to be bound as a correct explication of Scripture) makes no explicit reference to women's 'ordination'.
Of course, the sixteenth century Book of Concord likewise makes no explicit references to partial birth abortion, apartheid, euthanasia, eugenics, or cruelty to animals. And yet it does not follow that such practices are theologically acceptable or bear the seal of approval of Lutherans based on this argument from silence.
Those who advocate for the 'ordination' of women are at odds with not only Scripture, but with the ecumenical creeds that confess the divinity of Jesus.
Advocates of women's 'ordination' believe they are correcting an injustice. But if excluding women from the pastoral office is unjust today, it was also unjust ten years ago, twenty years ago, fifty years ago, and a hundred years ago. It would have been unjust in 1847 AD when the synod was established, in 1530 AD when the Augsburg Confession was written, in 325 AD when the Council of Nicea met, in 50 AD when the apostles met at the Council of Jerusalem, and in 30 AD when Jesus ordained and commissioned 11 men, thus establishing the catholic practice of male-only ordination.
Jesus was never afraid to break with Jewish tradition, including regarding matters pertaining to the role of women in society. Jesus had many shining examples of female disciples that he could have ordained had it been His will to establish such a practice. The odds of this exclusion of 50% of the population (including the population of disciples) just being by chance is (if my math is correct) 1 in 2 to the 11th power (1 in 2048) - or 5 hundredths of one percent. Today's advocates of affirmative action would never conclude that Jesus, as an employer, just happened to have 11 qualified men and no qualified women among his pool of candidates. He would probably be sued and charged with discrimination under the 1964 Civil Rights Act had He been born in twentieth century America instead of first century Judea.
Moreover, the early church rapidly shifted from Jewish to Gentile in its majority culture, and in the Greco-Roman world, priestesses and female oracles were not unusual in the least.
So if women's 'ordination' is a matter of justice, then the apostles were sinning in only ordaining men, as was our Lord Himself who established the apostolic and catholic practice. If so, Jesus was either a duplicitous coward, a cunning hypocrite, or a hateful misogynist.
In whatever case, such a man is not God.
To put the best construction on it, it is in a sense commendable that some people are so committed to justice as to seek to correct even the errors of Jesus Himself. They do have a sense of righteousness to which even the Son of God must give account.
However, in order to advocate for women's 'ordination', one must necessarily throw the doctrines of the two natures of Christ and the Trinity under the bus. And those two doctrines - protestations of Unitarians and various cults notwithstanding - are established Christian doctrines and ought not be matters for synodical debate, unless we are willing to consider amending the ecumenical creeds through bureaucratic machinations.
Here we are once again at the trial of Jesus, this time with His holy bride standing with Him in the dock, and the question is being posed to her: "What is truth?"